Dealing with blocked sinks
UPDATE: Because the world and his wife seems to have gone crazy for Soda Crystals and White Vinegar since Mrs Hinch recommended them for cleaning sinks, we're encouraging customers to read this article and particularly the paragraph at the end of this page about mixing acids and alkalis. So in the meantime, a bit of background:
Most blockages in sinks are the results of grease and oil congealing in the pipes as the waste water cools. The build up can also trap food debris, further restricting the flow of water through the pipe. Bacteria can grow on this, giving the resultant bad odours.
If neglected, this can cause a total blockage. It's best to tackle the issue as soon as you notice water draining more slowly. Or even better, to prevent it happening in the first place.
Tackling a blocked or slow draining sink
BLOCKED SINKS - Remember, prevention is better than cure! Once a pipe is totally blocked, your best options are plunging and rodding, but Soda Crystals might sort the problem. It's certainly worth trying.
We don't like to recommend toxic products like caustic soda (not to be confused with Soda Crystals) because of the health & safety implications. If you do resort to such measures, please ensure you use gloves and safety goggles and limit the amount of skin exposed that could be affected by splashes.
SLOW DRAINING SINKS - In all but the worst blockages, Soda Crystals will remove a 'normal' blockage. Simply pour some boiling water down the sink; once it has all but drained away (albeit slowly), pour in a mug of Soda Crystals. Then add another mugful of boiling water and leave for 5 mins. Then pour in a kettle full of boiling water to see if the issue is resolved. If it isn't repeat the process until the drain flows freely. All being well, you should see the drain rate improve with each treatment.
If the blockage is particularly bad, you could try bicarbonate of soda and white vinegar prior to the Soda Crystals treatment. By pouring bicarbonate of soda (or Soda Crystals) down the drain, followed by white vinegar, the resulting chemical reaction could dislodge some of the debris by agitation.
AVOIDING THE PROBLEM IN THE FIRST PLACE - Simply put a mugful of Soda Crystals and hot water down your drains each week and you shouldn't have a problem. They are biodegradable and can even be used in houses with septic tanks. There are other things you can be doing to prevent a blocked drain.
NB. Do not use soda crystals or liquid soda crystals on aluminium or lacquered surfaces.
Photo courtesy of Northumbrian Water
What about bicarb (or Soda Crystals) and white vinegar?
You may well have seen plenty of 'how to' videos on the internet about unblocking sink plug holes and drains. One of the (visually) more interesting tips is to pour bicarbonate of soda or baking soda (or Soda Crystals) down the plug hole and then add white vinegar and watch the fizzing fun begin! You may also remember from chemistry class that bicarb is alkali and vinegar is acid. So the reaction you are seeing is the two effectively neutralising each other. So is it actually helping?
The answer in a roundabout way is 'yes'. But......there's a much better solution. Our MD (and qualified chemist) Bruce Maxwell explains:
"Adding vinegar and bicarb will fizz like crazy and the physical action will knock around debris. The bubbles will do a bit of cleaning, but bicarb is not a great cleaner for sink drains as its pH is too low – it would be better to use a stronger alkali such as Soda Crystals with hot water. This will react with any fats and oils that are restricting the pipe, and make them water soluble, and flush away with the other matter that is causing odours and/or restricted flow. Adding vinegar after a good soak in Soda Crystals will fizz and make sure everything is knocked off the pipe walls."